Despite the crack in my windshield, my road trip was proving to be a great thing. It was amazing “me time”, an excuse to eat a little bit of junk food, and I got to practice singing along with some of my favorite songs. All things made possible by a solo road trip.
But one of the bad things about driving alone is that there is no co-pilot for navigation. Sure, I had maps in the back seat. But, I don’t actually know how to read them. I have to be standing facing the same direction as the map, and even then I don’t get it. It’s a spacial thing.
Yes, I had directions and a GPS. But there are times when they don’t have all the information.
Like when I was in Kansas City, Missouri.
I was going along following my directions when I saw a big orange sign in front of the exit I was supposed to take. “Highway Closed.”
Google didn’t know. Neither did my GPS.
I remembered the advice I heard as a child about what to do if I was ever lost in a forest. Hug a tree. Which really means, stay where you are. Don’t keep going and get more lost.
There weren’t any trees on the freeway, but I figured that the city equivalent was to get off the freeway. Stop driving further into a place I didn’t know.
So that’s what I did. I took the next exit and drove to the first businessy looking place I could find. As luck would have it, there was a cute coffee shop. LatteLand.
I was pretty surprised by the reaction I got when I told the woman behind the counter that I was lost.
Yes, I was expecting that she’d try and help me out a little. But, that’s not what happened.
Everyone literally stopped what they were doing to help me get to Cincinnati. Customers who were relaxing in chairs with newspapers or chatting with friends jumped up to help.
The baristas and the customers all knew that the highway was closed and started talking to each other about what would be the best and easiest route to get me on my way.
Nobody was grumpy or annoyed, and they didn’t even try to get me to order some coffee. There was nothing in it for any of them.
One barista and a customer started drawing a map. Then a second barista thought that printing a map from the computer would be easier to read. So they took me back to their office and together they worked out a route with Google that went around the closure.
They printed out the map and the step by step directions. Then they told me how to get out of the shopping center and back on the freeway. Twice, just to make sure I got it.
I made it back to the freeway and onto toward my grandparents’ house in Cincinnati.
If it wasn’t for those kind people in LatteLand I might still be in Kansas City, driving around in circles. So, to those people: Thank you!
They showed me that even as strangers we really are a community. And when all the fancy technology breaks down or gives us wrong information, we still have each other. Sometimes the old fashioned strategies are the best. Ask your neighbor, they might have just the answer you’re looking for.
And when I had to drive through a crazy scary thunderstorm somewhere in Indiana, it was the people who got me through. I focused on the lights ahead of me and told myself I’d do what they do. They kept driving, so I did, too.
A few minutes of stress, and I calmed down and realized that I could handle it because I wasn’t really alone. We were all together on the road, in the storm. After a few minutes we left the storm behind and the sky went back to blue.
A big part of the reason that we can do things on our own is because we have each other.
Have strangers ever helped you out of a tough situation? Have you ever been lost in a strange city? What do you do when you are along and you need help?